“Life Support” is an album of strings. They’re featured in the opening track, the interlude, the hit single, the closing track and almost every other song on the record, so when “BOYSHIT” opens with a loud crash of horns and a bouncing hook that declares “I don’t speak boyshit,” you might think it’s antithetical to the rest of the album. However, you’d be mistaken: through and through, Madison Beer’s debut album is brash, straightforward and, most importantly, confident.
Beer often draws comparisons to Ariana Grande thanks to their shared love for high ponytails and provocative songs. This narrative peaked when Beer released the music video for her single “Baby,” where she sings about turning on her partner while strutting around with her hair tied way up. Surprisingly, the similarities between the two artists mostly end there. With the darker, electronic-influenced sound of “Life Support,” a better comparison for the record would be Billie Eilish, and her debut album, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”
While “Life Support” may not quite reach the same heights of an album-of-the-year-winning effort, it has earned a place among some of the best pop debut albums in recent memory – think “Sawayama,” “Kid Krow,” “The Album” and “Cuz I Love You” – because it manages to establish Beer’s niche within the music industry by doing its own thing. For Beer, that means taking the darker sound of Billie Eilish and adding her own confident twist to it.
Sometimes, like in “BOYSHIT,” this confidence manifests as anger. There’s something addictive about listening to Beer singing about her grief; maybe it’s the way her outrage is palpable in her songs, her voice dripping with resentment as she sings, “Boy, it’s like treason how you’re treating me” in lead single “Good in Goodbye.”
Other times, Beer’s confidence translates into raw vulnerability. On “Default,” listeners find Beer opening up about her struggles with anxiety and depression. Here, she sings to herself, lamenting how she keeps getting dragged backwards in her struggle with her mental health. Although this exploration isn’t as nuanced or developed as it could be (the song is a touch under two minutes long), it’s nevertheless unexpected from a freshman in the music industry.
The best moments on “Life Support” come when Beer combines these two sides – anger and vulnerability – together. On her hit single “Selfish,” she laments ever trusting her ex: “I shouldn't love you, but I couldn't help it / I always knew that you were too damn selfish.” Placed right in the middle of the tracklist, the ballad manages to hold the entire album together probably exactly because of the way it mixes the record’s biggest emotions together in one song.
Beer ought to be proud of how her debut album turned out given the circumstances of her career up to this point. Originally discovered thanks to Justin Bieber tweeting about her cover of his song, Beer was signed to the record label of Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun. Scooter Braun, despite having the biggest name of any manager in the music industry and working for superstars like Ariana Grande, is actually a terrible manager. Consistently failing to correctly promote his artists outside of Bieber and Grande, his ineptitude as a manager led Carly Rae Jepson into obscurity, ushered Demi Lovato into cultural irrelevance and somehow ignited a feud with Taylor Swift (who he doesn’t even manage) when he kept her from buying the rights to her own songs. Beer was unable to escape Braun’s wake, her early career stagnating before eventually deciding to become an independent artist.
Unfortunately, like many artists who try to leave Braun’s control, she allegedly has been blacklisted. Nevertheless, thanks to her perseverance and ability to bend social media to her will, Beer steadily built up a following, allowing her to arrive at success without the help of the music establishment. Now, like her comrade Taylor Swift in the anti-Braun club, she even owns the rights to her recent work, including “Life Support.” As one of the few mainstream independent artists in pop, Beer can always know that her success is very well-deserved. Perhaps that’s why she’s so confident?